I've been doing the 5:2 diet (somewhat intermittently) for a few months now. But I'm still not accustomed to counting calories, and I don't have any kind of instinctive feel for the values associated with different ingredients, except to know that vegetables are good. On the other hand, little things like oil, nuts, and seeds can have surprisingly high values, which means that imaginative cooking takes a little more effort than usual.
For me, ironically, one consequence is that it can feel easier to eat less healthily than usual on a fast day - by grabbing half a pizza or other ready-meal where the numbers are printed on the packet. This is obviously a bad move, and something I've been wanting to address.
So when I saw an opportunity on SocialFabric to shop for a 5:2 recipe, it was the kick I needed to come up with something new. I headed down to Tesco to look for ingredients and started to think about what I could make within the 500-calorie limit without compromising on taste. And, actually, I don't usually want my main meal to take up the whole 500 calories - I'd rather be able to enjoy a slice of toast for breakfast, or a square of (dark) chocolate for dessert.
Fortunately, once you've calculated the magic numbers for a dish, you never have to do it again - just use the same quantities next time, and you know what you're getting. Plus if you keep your notes, you can refer back to check the calorie values for popular ingredients. I'm planning to be a lot more disciplined in future about working out a few basic 5:2-friendly recipes which I can then vary more confidently.
Every other blogger seems to be using courgette (zucchini) "noodles" as a replacement for pasta these days (check out this gorgeous raw salad for a completely different approach), so I thought that might be a fun thing to try out. Please note: courgette ribbons are nothing like pasta. They're very nice in their own right, but if you go into it expecting a pasta-substitute you will be disappointed. They are, however, tasty and very low in calories - even after you douse them in sesame oil (which more than doubled the calories, in my calculations).
I also decided to do a stir fry, and finally face up to calculating the calories in soy sauce. I only use a small amount, anyway, so it's really not very much. I have a really good non-stick pan, so I don't add any extra oil - the water from the mushrooms (in particular) should soon come out and stop it sticking. Following on from this exercise, I'll feel much more confident throwing in a few seasonings and not worrying about going over the limit.
In fact, this dish works out so low in calories that you could eat it twice and still be in bounds. I bet you couldn't, though - it's quite filling.
This recipe contains approximately 250 calories per serving.
Spicy Vegetable Stir-Fry with Sesame Courgette Ribbons
Approx. 250kcal per serving.
For the courgette ribbons
2 large courgettes (zucchini)
2tsp sesame oil
2tsp sesame seeds
For the stir-fry
100g mange tout (sugarsnap peas)
125g baby corn
2 red pointed peppers
150g chestnut mushrooms
1 large red onion
2tbsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic
½tsp ground ginger
1tsp chilli flakes
- Make courgette ribbons by running a potato peeler from top to bottom of the courgettes (stop when you reach the seeds in the middle). Set aside.
- Cut the mushrooms into thick slices, and the peppers into strips. Halve the baby corn. Finely chop the red onion and garlic.
- Stir-fry the vegetables (except the onions/garlic) for 5 minutes, until soft.
- Add the onions, garlic, spices, and soy sauce. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the courgette ribbons by microwaving in a suitable bowl for 2-3 minutes. Drain the liquid from the courgettes, and toss in the sesame oil and sesame seeds.
- Serve immediately.
Raw courgette ribbons.
Plates of raw veggies ready for stir-frying - it looks like it could be too much for the two of us.
Cooked down, it looks a much more reasonable quantity.
I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias®. Opinions, photos, and recipes are my own. #CBias #SocialFabric